On February 15 and 16, 2023, the National Association of American Veterans, Inc. (NAAV) honored Major (Retired) Nancy Leftenant-Colon, U.S. Air Force Nurse Corps, a true pioneer and trailblazer during her years of military service in the U.S. Armed Forces. Nancy Leftenant-Colon joined the Army Reserve in 1945, unable to get into the regular Army Nurse Corps because she as African American. She was the first African American to serve in the Army Reserve in 1945. She was the only woman to become the first president of the Tuskegee Airmen, Inc. from 1989 to 1991. Along with selected members of the Tuskegee Airmen, she received the Congressional Gold Medal from President George W. Bush on March 29, 2007. This year she will be celebrated her 103 days on earth God’s willing. She has been described as “brave, steadfast, dedicated,” and a “trailblazer.”
Nancy Leftenant-Colon, a true pioneer, will celebrate her 103rd birthday on September 29th at the Dominican Village in Amityville, New York, where she lives in an independent living apartment dwelling facility.
Major Nancy Leftenant-Colon, U.S. Army/Air Force Nurse Corps (Ret) entered the U.S. Army in January 1945 as a reservist in the Army Nurse Corps. She completed her basic training at Camp McCoy, Wisconsin in the same year. In 1947, the Army and the Air Force separated into separate units. Second Lieutenant Leftenant-Colon elected to transfer to the Air Force. In 1948, while stationed at Lockbourne Air Force Base in Ohio, Leftenant-Colon became the first commissioned African American nurse to be integrated into the Regular Army Nurse Corps. Her admittance into the corps arose, in part, due to the civil rights initiatives of President Harry S. Truman’s Executive Order 9981, which established the beginnings of equality in the armed forces.
(Ret) Major Nancy Leftenant-Colon wrote the forward for Stella’s Girl: The Autobiography of Captain Evelyn Decker, a World War II, and Korean War Veteran. Captain Decker (1915-2008) entered the Army Nurse Corps in 1944, where she began a career that would make her a pioneer as the military under-went changes to reshape the Army. The Army Nurse Corps accepted a small number of African American nurses during World War II. In September 1945, after the war ended, nearly 500 African American nurses served in a corps of 50,000 because of a quota system mandated by the segregated Army during the first years of the war that limited the number of African American enlisted Servicemembers.
(Ret) Major Nancy Leftenant-Colon in the forward for Captain Decker Major Leftenant-Colon wrote, “The African American women in the Army Nurse Corps selfless service and dedication proved that they had what it takes, not only in war, but in peacetime as well. They had courage. They persevered. Captain Decker’s story includes accounts of sadness, death, and success, but most importantly, she shares the efforts of African Americans who served their country as members of the United States Armed Forces despite the attempts to exclude them.”
The National Association of American Veterans, Inc. (NAAV) chose to present (Ret) Major Nancy Leftenant-Colon with her request for her 103rd birthday this year with her complete Air Force Service Officer Uniform, AF Officer Blue Blouse, AF Officer Blue Neck Tab, Officer Service Cap, Insignia, and female Black Pumps and other service-related items awarded to her during military service from 1945 to 1965. All the items were gathered via eBay, and with the support of the Andrew Air Force Base Military Service Store at the Andrew Air Force Base in Maryland. With the professional assistance of many across this nation NAAV was able to obtain the AF Official Military Service Uniform for (Retired) Major Nancy Leftenant-Colon’s female AF Officer Uniform.
Major (Retired) Nancy Leftenant-Colon’s Awards and Decorations for her military during World War II and the Korean War are as follows: American Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; National Defense Service Medal; Korean Service Medal; Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal; Air Force Longevity Services Award/with 4 OLCs; United Nations Service Medal (Korea).
All her medals and ribbons were successfully obtained by the Andrew Air Force Base Military Service Store at the Andrew Air Force Base in Maryland.
See Images below taken on February 14, 2023, at the Andrew Air Force Base Military Service Store with L/R Ms. Ross T. Leung, Ms. Constance Burns, President and CEO, NAAV, and Mrs. Katelyn A. Lesko showing (Ret) Major Nancy Leftenant-Colon’s Officer Service Cap at the Military Service Store.
Some of Mayor (Retired) Memorable Experience
In 1948, Leftenant-Colon’s resolve paid off. She applied for regular status. African American nurses could serve only as reservists previously, and, in keeping with President Harry Truman’s order that the military be desegrated, defense officials approved her application. Leftenant-Colon became the first nurse in the Regular Army Nurse Corps. That was not her last move. The next year, she transferred to the Air Force, which inn 1947, was designated a separate branch of the armed services. Leftenant-Colon wanted to take wing. She said “I became more aware
of values, respect, honestly and character building which were started and maintained by the discipline and training of my parents.”